Italy’s transport minister has announced a plan to ban large cruise ships from Venice’s historic center.
TheLocal.it reports that ships weighing over 55,000 tons will have to dock in the industrial port of Marghera, which is to the northwest of Venice’s historic center. Ships will no longer be able to access the Giudecca Canal, which passes next to Piazza San Marco. The new restrictions are set to take effect in four years.
The move is the latest in a long-running dispute between local activists and the cruise industry over cruise ships’ access to Venice’s historic areas. A ban on cruise ships weighing over 96,000 gross registered tons in the Venetian Lagoon was overturned by Italy’s courts two years ago, although the cruise industry was continuing to operate under that limit on its own as of this summer. The 55,000 ton limit would be even smaller than that, and far below the size of some of the cruise industry’s mega-ships, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas or Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which can weigh in between 100,000 gross registered tons and 230,000 gross registered tons. The cruise industry had opposed other potential restrictions on cruise ships, such as a plan to build a floating sea dock outside the Venetian Lagoon.
Cruise ship passengers make up only about 5 percent of overall visitation to Venice, and city officials have been considering other restrictions on tourism in general. This past May the city council floated a plan that could see the destination charging for access to the historic center. As a first step, the city has begun introducing people-counters at some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as Piazza San Marco. At first, the counters will simply register the number of visitors, but eventually the city could implement ticketed entry to the crowded area, according to local reports.